#12: Tony Iwane – Outreach and Community at iNaturalist

#12: Tony Iwane – Outreach and Community at iNaturalist Nature's Archive


My guest in this episode is Tony Iwane. Tony is Outreach and Community Coordinator for iNaturalist, an environmental educator, contributor to Bay Nature Magazine, photographer, and just an all around interesting and knowledgeable naturalist.

As a key staff member for iNaturalist and one of its earliest members, Tony gives us an insider’s view of iNaturalist, what it is, and how it is used. Tony has also curated iNaturalist’s “Observation of the Day” for the past 5 years, and shared a selection of some of the most noteworthy observations from that catalog, including a serendipitous identification of an uncommon southern hemisphere hoodwinker sunfish in California, and an elusive Columbian Weasel photographed sitting on an outhouse toilet – still the only recorded observation of this species on iNaturalist.

Tony Iwane

Tony describes iNaturalist as both a social network for those interested in nature, and also a platform for community science. As a platform, we discuss how easy it is to engage with experts, and some of the creative and unique projects that people have created – and that you can view and contribute to! In fact, a couple past guests have successfully used iNaturalist to raise awareness for specific ecological concerns – Merav Vonshak and the Newt roadkill problem at Lexington Reservoir in California, and Charley Eiseman raising awareness of leaf mining insects.

We also discuss how iNaturalist has been an important discovery for many people to help them with purpose and focus during the pandemic.

And of course, we also learn about Tony’s personal journey that led him from counseling to the world of nature.

Be sure to check Tony’s photos and follow him on iNaturalist. If you are new to iNaturalist, check out the getting started resources here.

Links To Topics Discussed

People and Organizations

Links are in chronological order as they were mentioned in the podcast

Merav Vonshak – previous guest and her Newt Patrol which raises awareness about massive newt mortality around Lexington Reservoir in the San Francisco Bay area

Ken-ichi Ueda – Co-founder of iNaturalist, who is referenced many times in the episode

Cheng-Tao Lin, aka mutolisp on iNaturalist – Tony highlighted his work building the iNaturalist community in Taiwan.

Hawaii Nature Center – Tony volunteered here after college

Tree Frog Treks – Tony was an educator here.

Even Dankowicz – edanko on iNaturalist, a curator and expert in diptera, especially syrphid flies and related species. He has created this very useful fly guide, freely available

Caleb Scholtens – One of Even Dankowicz’s partners in creating some of the diptera guides mentioned above.

Books and Other Things

Links are in chronological order as they were mentioned in the podcast

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Seek App – the privacy friendly Machine Learning (ML) driven app that is super simple to help you identify organisms you see

White-rumped Shama – the bird Tony described that loved his compost bin

Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast – by Noah Siegel and Christian Schwarz is one of Tony’s favorite field guides

A Chiton on a Crab – one of Tony’s more memorable Observations of the Week.

Spider in an Ear – another memorable Observation of the Week

The Colombian Weasel – found on a toilet, photos not posted for 7 years, this is one of the rarest finds in the Observation of the Day catalog

Newly Described Hoodwinker Sunfish found in California – iNaturalist led to numerous other identifications of this newly described fish.

The City Nature Challenge – an iNaturalist project and annual challenge between 100+ global cities, occurring every April

Never Home Alone – a creative project that documents organisms found in homes, and has made some interesting conclusions

An example of a Socially Distant Bioblitz

The Bird Food project tracks observations of birds eating, helping to identify the food the bird is eating

ARThropod project showcases unintentional art made by arthropods

Organisms on or Near Appropriate Signs – a comedic project started by Tony

Lizards of the American Southwest – one of Tony and my favorite field guides of all time

California Herps – the best resource (in my opinion) online or in print for California herps!

Bugguide’s Spider Eye Arrangement – identify your spiders by observing how their eyes are physically laid out!

Tony’s Ask the Naturalist columns on Bay Nature

And for those wanting to go “expert level” on iNaturalist, you can modify the URLs you use to search data in different ways.

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

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